The virtual practice: using the residents' continuity clinic to teach practice management and systems-based practice

J Grad Med Educ. 2009 Sep;1(1):104-8. doi: 10.4300/01.01.0017.


Background: Education in systems-based practice is a required component of all postgraduate medical education programs in the United States. Competency in this area requires that trainees have an understanding of the health care system sufficient to provide optimal care to patients. Most trainees in residency programs have little understanding of the complexities and challenges of present-day practice in the current system of care and consider themselves unprepared to undertake this activity following completion of training. Training in practice management in residency programs has not been emphasized as an important component of systems-based practice. Historically, practice management training in residency programs has been done using a fully didactic model, and residents have expressed a desire to learn this skill by becoming more directly involved in the operations and management of a practice. The patient visit touches many aspects of the health care system, including clinic operations, insurance, quality, and finances.

Approach: At our institution, we used the residents' continuity clinic practices as a vehicle to provide education in practice management and systems-based practice by creating a curriculum that included the residents' perceived gaps in knowledge regarding going into practice. This is known as the virtual practice. This curriculum is taught using data obtained from residents' practice to illustrate concepts in many areas, including primary practice operations, malpractice insurance, financial benchmarks, and career planning.

Results: Resident self-assessed knowledge of these areas increased after participating in the curriculum, and resident testimonials indicate satisfaction with the project. In addition, residents have become engaged and interested in how their effort translates into performance and how they participate in the health care system.